Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Spring Chinook Forecast

Here's an except from ODFW news release. One of these years, I'll create the time necessary to figure out how to catch a springer on a fly.

For the Columbia River, managers are predicting a strong return of 314,200 springchinook, which would make it the fourth largest return since 1938. The forecast also includes a record return of summer chinook (91,200 fish) and continued strong returns of summer steelhead and fall chinook. The only cloud in the 2012 forecast is coho salmon, where low jack counts last year suggest a weak return this year.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Rocky Ford Creek

Say what you want about Rocky Ford Creek fishing experience--how it's technical, or too crowded or full of tame fish or whatever. Every so often I need to get my big trout fix and when I had a meeting in Ephrata, the Ford beckoned.

Spent Saturday night sleeping in Big Red. Sunday morning broke a bit cool, so cool that I had to warm my butane stove using Big Red's heater before the fuel would ignite so I could heat water for french press coffee. Breakfast done, it was time to fish. Started with D'Dub's Lazy Leech in black followed by a Black Gold. For the first couple of hours the biggest challenge was not the ice in the guides, it was frozen reel and the line freezing to the rod. A weak sun finally raised the temperature to cure those issues.

The fishing was interesting--the catching was on fire. After so many fish I lost count, I started giving slack when a small fish hit. The fish were aggressive, willing to take either the leech or chironomid pattern. Made no difference whether it was dead-drifted or quickly stripped. At least three times, I hooked a fish on the chironomid and had a bigger fish take the leech.

How good was the fishing? I closed out the day with eight fish in eleven casts. Called it a day after breaking off both flies.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Snohomish River Pinks

Ian Brodie took me to his secret honey hole on the Snohomish River yesterday evening. The spot is so secret that there were only about 200 people lining the banks, plus several boats. Some folks brought tents to camp for the night, campfires dotted the shoreline as we walked out at dusk. Maybe it wasn't so secret after all.

It did have fish some of which were perfectly willing to play. We each hit three. My first was starting to hump up, the last was nice and bright. Muscled up to a 7/8 weight rod. The bigger fish this year have been tough to control on my 6 weight. Since I'm releasing all my fish, makes sense to end the fight sooner so they can go make more pinks for 2013.

Always experimenting with patterns, ranging from a Flashabou Pink Comet to Fuchsia Bugger tied with trilobal yarn instead of chicken hackle. Favorite fly so far--fuchsia rabbit tail, couple strands of silver flashabou, dubbed fuchsia sparkle yarn body. I'll add some weight at the head for fishing during brisk tide changes or fast stream flows.

Pinks In the Duwamish

Today was the Herding of the Pinks event on the Duwamish. The hot area was just downstream of the 1st Avenue S. bridge. I fished an intermediate line and the fish preferred a larger fly than in the past. Most everyone thinks the fish are bigger this run than last–I concur. Several fish gave my Scott 6 weight almost more than it could handle. The first fish took me 30 yards into my backing and one fish I never landed and was glad the hook pulled out. Next time I carry a bigger stick.

Most of the fish took on a fairly slow retrieve–much slower than what the hoochie and bombers using.

Here are some launch sites: just upstream from 1st Ave S. bridge, T107, and Duwamish Waterway Park. Explore and you’ll find other as well. Make sure to read the regs before heading out.

A Brief Affair

Hit Lincoln Park again yesterday–the bombers are scoring with their 1000 yard casts. Hit one fish last evening as the sun was setting. Seeing that sunset was worth the trip, the fish was a bonus.
Back again to join Bob Young and Steve Bohnemeyer. Steve left before a few pinks came in close. Bob hit one that released itself. My next cast resulted in a fish that I released after a pleasant tussle.
Sure would like to see WDFW Enforcement on the beach–folks are taking more than the limit and rarely are they recording their catch.

Loveless At Lincoln Park

Hit Lincoln Park about 6:15 this morning before heading off to do some real estate work. I counted 22 boats in the water and about that many beach fishers including 5-6 fly tossers. Steve Bohnemeyer hooked one pink, landed one flounder and I got plenty of casting practice. Like I said, no love at Lincoln Park. On the other hand, the pink buzz bombers were scoring with long, long, long casts and some of down-rigger crowd were picking up fish.
The run will only get better as more fish arrive and push in closer to shore. Stay tuned and keep your casting arm limber

Serene Was Serene

Lynnwood’s Lake Serene, the site of so many largemouth bass the last time Steve Bohnemeyer and I fished it, was completely fishless last night. Okay, so I had 4-5 nibbles, and I do mean nibbles as they were not strong enough to be called strikes, but that was as good as it got.
We fished on top into the lily pads, we fished shallow along the edges, we fished deep and we pretty much fished all around the lake.
Our results matched what we heard from a couple of local anglers–the lake is simply not fishing well this year. Go elsewhere

Weird Carpon

Talked with Leland Miyawaki this morning as he was headed into the Orvis store about the weird carpon behavior on Banks Lake. Ed Sozinho, Earl Harper and Leland found tons of fish and no takers. Weather conditions were better than good–sunny, hot, no clouds, no wind and clear water. No hook ups despite three quite accomplished fly fishers.
Here’s why: the fish are exhibiting spawning behavior. In a normal year, the spawn on Banks Lake would be the end of May–perhaps into the first week of June. Leland said the fish were paired up, broaching and generally focused on each other instead of eating.
His description matches my observations of the week before at Banks. Lots of fish–little catching except for the smallmouth.

Banks Lake

After the Washington Council FFF meeting in Ellensburg last weekend was adjourned, Big Red (my darlin’s Ford F-150) took me up to Banks Lake so I could check out the spots were I was going to show Blake Oxley, Jim Morrison and Leland Miyawaki all my “secret” carping spots. Good thing because the lake is about 2.5 feet higher than I’ve seen it at this time of year. Found some carp and smallmouth bass in the bright sunlight.
Fast forward to the meeting the three nimrods at Coulee City Park, the clouds threatening to rain again and the wind freshening. The two enemies of sight fishing for carp are wind and clouds. I don’t usually put rain on the enemies list because it never rains in the desert in July.
So as the wind increased to 25 knots, the water muddied and the clouds opened up, Leland caught his first carp on a olive rabbit and rubber legs fly tied by your faithful correspondent. Unfortunately, the other flies given to Blake and Jim failed their appointed duties.
They all packed it in when the rain pelted the surface into a froth. I hung around to check out a couple more spots for future reference. Then the sun emerged, the clouds rolled back, the wind stopped and the fish were easy to spot.
Of course, they pretty much maintained their closed mouthed demeanor, though I did manage to trick one carp and another smallmouth–a bit smaller than the one in the morning.

Magnuson Park

Steve Bohnemeyer and I fished Lake Washington last night-wading between the boat launch and swim beach. Ugly south wind gave way to a calmer evening. Mayflies and caddis hatching–only the rare fish working. Northern Pikeminnow love my Chartreuse Caboose. Sadly the smallmouth were not in evidence.

Log Boom Park

River Wader and I launched our pontoons yesterday evening at Log Boom Park. We were searching for largemouth bass on the fly and found exactly none. Did see several adult and immature bald eagles, several mallard hens with chicks and two beavers. Lots of great looking structure that either wasn’t holding fish or the fish that were there simply declined to be caught. What’s up with that?


Just back from an interesting and unique fishing experience. Dale Robinson, Fishing Manager of the Orvis flagship store in Manchester, Vermont, hooked me up with Drew Price of Master Class Angling. Drew is a guide who, as Vermont’s first certified Master Angler, loves to guide for “alternative species” like carp, gar and bowfin. When Dale told me about bowfin, I knew that was the alternative for me.

Why bowfin? Because it is a smart, primitive, aggressive, hard-fighting fish that grows to respectable size and willingly takes a fly. Also because it’s got teeth, is attractive in an odd sort of way, is a contemporary of the dinosaurs, and I’ve never caught one before.

Drew, a science teacher by training, has studied these fish and knows their habits. He says the bowfin is found throughout Lake Champlain as well as much of the eastern United States, including the Mississippi River drainage. In the lake, Drew says they mostly feed on aquatic insects. They also eat crayfish and forage fish.

Drew and I met at Lake Champlain, that is, once I found my way to the launch site. Drew rolled up with his canoe which we quickly dropped by the road, then parked our cars. Drew fishes out of a canoe because two people can stand up, it is quiet and allows him to take his clients into waters inaccessible to other types of craft. Pretty cool setup and made even more stable by a set of plastic pontoons that can be extended on either side.

He showed me his favorite set-up—a relatively simple, workman-like affair. Drew favors an Orvis 8-weight Hydros rod, floating line, short 4-foot leader and weighted fly. A strong, tough leader and fly rod with plenty of backbone are necessary to deal with these bruisers in weed and brush-filled wetlands.

The fishing is relatively simple as well. It is Sight Fishing 101. Angler in front, standing up, scanning the water for one of these toothy critters. Drew standing in back, guiding the canoe through the open and not-so-open flooded wetlands, helping to spot fish as well. When a fish is spotted, the fly is cast. The target area for bowfin is much like the target area for tailing carp—right on the nose. A well cast fly, jigged up and down may get the attention of a fish. You can tell when a bowfin gets excited as it ripples its almost body-length dorsal fin and flares its gills.

The strike is generally seen as well as felt. Drew swears he can hear the powerful jaws clamp down as well. Not so with me—too much rock and roll and gunfire without ear protection. The motion necessary to get a good hookset matches the tenor of the fish—strong and powerful in order to penetrate the bony mouth structure. When hooked, the reaction is immediate. The water boils, the fish surges left, right, to and fro with an almost uncanny ability to wrap the line around every available bit of floating and underwater vegetation. The trick to landing these guys in such places is like what the bass guys do when fishing the slop. Get their head up and the rest of the body will follow.

When it’s time to land the fish, Drew grabs the net and I lead the bowfin into it. Drew brings it aboard, uses pliers to remove the fly, then uses a Boga-Grip to release the fish after it poses for the appropriate cheesecake shots. The Boga-Grip is an essential tool to avoid getting fingers shredded by those diamond-sharp teeth. Bowfin males, when defending the nest from predators, have been known to attack humans.

Vermont has a Master Angler Program that establishes qualifying length requirements for 33 fish species. For bowfin, any fish over 26 inches puts you in the Master Angler category. Drew got me into five fish in the few hours we fished in spite of the wind rippling the water and the clouds blocking the sun. Of those five, I landed four. The two males were each only about two feet long. The two females measured 29 1/8 and 29 3/4 inches—both Master Angler fish.

Bowfin are not for everyone. Some folks call them dogfish, some call them trash fish, some call them swamp muskie. After hooking my first one and seeing the surface of the water erupt and the bend of the 8-weight rod, I call them nothing but fun.

Any fly fisher heading for the east coast who wants a different, completely out of the ordinary and exciting experience should contact Drew for a day on the water. Driving distances from Boston, New York or Philadelphia are modest compared to heading to eastern Montana. And Lake Champlain has just about every other freshwater fish species as well. Contact Drew Price at www.drewpriceonthefly.com. His blog is www.dponthefly.blogspot.com. Email at muskyflies@gmail.com. Phone is 802.324.5651. Dale Robinson can be reached at 802.362.3750.


Here’s a story from the P-I

If people want to go swimming, floating or boating on rivers in unincorporated King County they may need to wear life vests.

That’s because Executive Dow Constantine has called for a summer-long life vest requirement.

“This proposal will help save lives,” Constantine said in a statement. “River flows are unusually swift and cold this year due to a heavy mountain snowpack that is melting into King County rivers. Rivers are inherently dangerous places to play, but this year is bringing additional risks. The wearing of life jackets is as essential for swimmers and boaters as helmets for cyclists and seat belts for drivers.”

County Councilmember Larry Phillips agrees and has sponsored an ordinance that will be introduced Monday. If approved, it would be be effective until Halloween. People who don’t wear vests would face fines from the sheriff’s department of up to $86. The sheriff’s department supports the life vest ordinance.

Authorities say an average of more than 20 die in drowning accidents every year in King County.

Read more: http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/Wear-a-life-vest-in-King-Co-or-face-an-86-fine-1407529.php#ixzz1OEc9ZuqS

Freight Trains

Want to learn how and where to catch a freight train? Come to the Orvis store, Saturday, May 7, 2011 3:00 p.m. to catch my free seminar. I’ll cover carp behavior, what they eat, flies to use and where to go.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Whidbey Island Salt

I had a three hour break from teaching and consulting this last weekend at the Whidbey Island Writers Conference http://www.writeonwhidbey.org/Conference/ so I found a place to go stand in cold water while the wind blew and the rain found its way inside my rain jacket. Managed to raise three fish--two swiped at the Miyawaki Beach Popper, the third at the Triggs Chum Baby trailing behind the popper. My hands were too cold for photos, even with my waterproof camera. Still waiting for some warmer and drier weather.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Carkeek Morning

Cool, cloudy and a bit windy, then the sun broke through to push the clouds away. Unfortunately, the fish were pretty much elsewhere. Shoulda been here yesterday as some fish were caught on a small green Clouser. Eric Olson has one fish on, I had one swirl on a popper and Steve got some casting practice.

Hey Kids

THE 2010 ACADEMY – Applications are now being accepted for the 2011 Northwest Youth Conservation and Fly Fishing Academy. To qualify for The Academy, the applicant, boy or girl, 12-16 years old, must edit an essay explaining why they want to attend the Academy and a letter of recommendation is required from their school counselor or science teacher. The dates for the WSCFFF and WCTU sponsored event are June 19-25, 2011. The Academy will be held at The Grinwood Conference Center on Hicks Lake in Lacey, WA. To learn more about the Academy, go to www.nwycffa.org. The application is available on our website or contact Mike Clancy @ nwycffa@earthlink.net. Sponsorships are available. This is a life rewarding experience for our youth to learn conservation and the basics of fly fishing from dedicated volunteers. Mike Clancy, Co-Director, NWYCFFAcademy

My take: this is an outstanding program and a ton of fun for the kids and the volunteer instructors.

Senate Republicans Do It Again

Senate Republicans have again killed a bi-partisan bill to add modest acreage to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

New Use For Old Net

Now that a certain gift-giving and receiving day is near and there is a funny shaped package under the tree, you all must be wondering what to do with your old knotted landing net.

Trim the net away from the aluminum handle (recycle the metal). Buy a large carabiner and some anchor rope. Take all on your next boating outing. Fill the net with rocks, loop the net through the carabiner, attach the rope to the carabiner and you’ve got a portable anchor.

Big Trout

For those trout anglers willing to brave the cooling weather and water, three not-so-secret lakes are getting a dose of “jumbo” trout. WDFW is stocking Thurston County’s Black and Offutt lakes and Kitsap Lake in (ready for this) Kitsap County with 10,000 fish. If you want to narrow down the time frame, here’s a link to the stocking schedule.

War Dogs

Cry Havoc and let slip the dogs of war so sayeth the Bard. Little did he know he was describing my favorite Pacific salmon. However it’s clear that my favorite salmon is attracting much (some would say way too much) attention from the gillnetters and purse seiners.

Here’s an excerpt from an article I wrote for Fly Fusion

Commercial Pressure
Chum have historically been Washington’s most abundant naturally reproducing salmon with fish classed as summer (spawning September/October), fall (spawning November/December) and winter (spawning January/February) run fish. In Puget Sound, roughly 90% of the returning fish are fall run, though the summer and winter fish provide a nice biological mix. In years past the chum was the least desirable commercial salmon, but that has changed, at least in Washington’s Puget Sound with as yet known consequences to the fish stocks. According to an article in Pacific Fishing, “In Puget Sound, chum has become THE salmon fishing for many fisherman.”
The switch to chum is driven by market price. Five years ago Puget Sound commercial fishers were hard pressed to find buyers for any fish they caught. Now they get upwards of a $1.00 per pound from high-end retail buyers. Chum roe, the only valuable part of the fish a few years ago, fetched $10 to $12 a pound, double the price from 2007.

How much pressure are the commercials placing on the resource? In November 2008, there were almost 75 seiners and 200 gillnetters chasing chum throughout Puget Sound. Mother Nature can stress a fish population as well. December 2008 found the Puget Sound blanketed in record snowfall that flooded many river systems when melted by the Pineapple Express rains. The flood scour damage to redds will only be known when the 2009 age class return three to five years hence.

I’m generally a catch and release salmon fisher so bag limits typically mean nothing to me. However, I’m extremely concerned about the future of the fishery. Take a look at the 2010-11 regulations for the Skagit, Snohomish and Skykomish rivers. These historically are chum rivers. Take a look at the Chehalis system. Note that no chum may be retained by sports anglers.

Here’s a two-part suggestion. First, don’t bash WDFW–it doesn’t do any good and it wastes your energy. Second, express your concerns to WDFW in a positive, constructive manner, get involved in the citizens advisory groups, get educated about the North of Falcon process and hammer on your legislators about the disparity of value between a commercial caught fish and sports caught fish. Suggest to your legislator that the allocation of fish between the commercial and sports anglers must be reversed if only because it makes better economic sense